Offensive Line

Tennessee hasn't had the push from the offensive line you want on short-yardage situations, but you can't always blame the offensive line.

Line coach Jimmy Ray Stephens is a bit sensitive about that topic. Asked if it bugs him when the Vols fail to convert on short-yardage plays, Stephens snapped:

``Hell, there's a lot more people on the field than offensive linemen, you know. Our fourth-down-and-1 situation (against Ole Miss) was not an offensive line problem. People don't realize that, but it wasn't.

``I'm not going to make mention of who it was, but yeah, hell, you always want to be able to execute in every situation, whether it's third-and-1 or fourth-and-1 or whatever. It isn't always going to work out that way or you'd be the No. 1 ranked team in the country and undefeated.

``I don't know what the stats are, but I don't think it (UT on short-yardage plays) but I don't think it's been tremendously bad.''

* Typically, Tennessee goes with a bunched, two-tight-end set on short yardage plays. Why not spread the field?

``You can spread the field on third- and fourth-and-1 if the quarterback is more of a factor running the football,'' offensive coordinator Randy Sanders said. ``We don't have that right now. When you spread it out, it's a whole lot easier for the defense to get unblocked guys, to free guys closer to the football. Unless you're quarterback is a real threat or you have a great receiver out there than you know will win one-on-one and you can throw it to him, it's a little harder to take advantage of the situation.

``When you bunch it up, it takes the `free' guy a little bit farther away (from the line). It means you've got to get a couple more blocks, but that's been the philosophy around here for a long, long time.''

* The Sporting News said recently that quarterback Erik Ainge didn't have a good work ethic in the offseason and that UT decided to open the quarterback competition in August to light a fire under Ainge.

Nothing could be farther from the truth, Sanders said.

``Erik has a great work ethic,'' Sanders said. ``He doesn't need anybody to light a fire under him.''

The week Clausen was named the starter, Ainge was in the UT film room until after 11 p.m. several nights, studying tape on UT's offense and upcoming opponents, one coach told me.

* Former Georgia coach Jim Donnan, now an ESPN analyst, said he thinks Georgia has thrown the ball often this season to help D.J. Shockley get into a groove.

``I like the way coach Richt has brought him along this year,'' Donnan said. ``They're trying to really work hard on the passing game, which is taking away from the running game. They're trying to develop the passing game because they know they'll need it against a great defense like Tennessee. Without a question (Georgia) hasn't been challenged by a defense.''

Donnan said Richt is good after an open date he ``analyzes what Georgia has done to this point and what they need to do to get better and he cuts out the right and gets back to meat and potatoes.

``The big key for Georgia (against UT) is the running game. They really haven't tried to run that much. They're going to have to do that (to beat Tennessee).''

Donnan's pick: Georgia.

Why?

``Because Coach Fulmer told me to pick Georgia,'' Donnan said.

* Tennessee's 1985 SEC Championship team that won the Sugar Bowl with a 35-7 rout over second-ranked Miami is being honored this weekend, starting with a gala Friday night at the Tennessee Theatre.

That team remains dear to the hearts of so many UT fans because it was the school's first SEC title since 1969 and because it was an underdog that was forced to overcome a great deal of adversity.

It lost one of the school's best-ever quarterbacks to a knee injury against Alabama, lost its top running back, lost several defensive backs - neither starting corner played in the Sugar Bowl - yet lost just one game and finished No. 4 in the country.

It is the best coached UT team I've covered in over 20 years. Five staff members went on to become a head coach somewhere: Phillip Fulmer (UT), David Cutcliffe (Ole Miss), Ron Zook (Florida, Illinois), Kippy Brown (XFL) and Walt Harris (Pacific, Pittsburgh, Stanford).


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